News Column

U.S. Wants Nigeria to Take Economic Leadership in Africa

August 5, 2014

Abosede Musari

THE United States government has expressed the expectation of Nigeria to lead the African continent into economic advancement.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Jay Williams, stated this in a video-conferencing held with Nigeria's business community yesterday, as a background to the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which will be part of the Summit.

Participants from the business community in Nigeria were drawn from the microfinance, small business and agricultural sectors.

To achieve this leadership status, Williams suggested that small businesses in Nigeria should trade as a network, a model, which has been successful in the United States. He also suggested that big businesses should mentor smaller ones in order to help them grow.

"Small businesses here partner with larger businesses", he said, adding that the big businesses are willing to share resources such as machinery which smaller businesses lack.

Williams added that on the other hand, the bigger businesses can gain from the experiences of the smaller ones because the latter know the communities better.

He urged Africa to consider such partnerships, which have worked well in the United States.

Unsure if U.S. is willing to extend the AGOA programme for another 15 years, Williams noted however, that the U.S. government was committed to aiding the deployment of infrastructure for Africa, a commitment which finds expression in the Power Africa initiative, under which a memorandum of understanding was recently signed with the government of Nigeria.

The initiative is to help ensure better power generation for Nigeria; with an expectation for business and economic growth.

Representative of the microfinance sector, Ekaette Umoh, who was at the conference asked if the U.S. could aid women in Nigeria with grants to help their businesses.

She explained that though the microfinance sector is targeted at helping women, they are majorly unwilling to take loans. In response, Jay William stated that the U.S. government provides "forgivable loans" for women who are working hard and Achieving success in their businesses.

Another officer from the office of the U.S Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Julie Kirk, who supported Williams during the conference noted that the situation is the same for American women entrepreneurs. She stated lack of confidence to succeed and cultural barriers as the inhibiting factors.

Responding to the issue of huge capital requirements for foreign entrepreneurs in the U.S., Kirk advised intending investors to join available business incubators that would help entrepreneurs start their businesses in the US.

Another participant, Esta Charles-Ayede, who represented the agricultural sector, noted that Nigerian exporters of agricultural products face a lot of difficulties and losses on issues of standard when they reach America with their goods.

She therefore, suggested that the U.S. set up laboratories in Nigeria to test all the products before they leave Nigeria, urging U.S. investors to invest in agro-mechanisation in the country, against much focus on oil.

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Source: AllAfrica

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